Christ the King-Archbishop B. O’Brien

Homily by Archbishop Brendan O’Brien

St. Mary’s Cathedral

Feast of Christ the King, Sunday, November 26, 2017


The feast we celebrate today, the Feast of Christ the King, was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925, at a time when secularism was on the increase and Europe was witnessing the rise of dictatorships, which saw Catholics being taken in by the promises of these earthly leaders.


At first, the feast was celebrated in October.  However, in 1970, Pope Paul VI replaced it with a very different Feast of Christ the King, to be celebrated on the last Sunday of the liturgical year.  By doing so, he removed from Christ’s Kingship any nostalgia for medieval monarchy and from the struggle of political ideologies.  Instead, this feast invites us to raise our eyes in faith to the ultimate triumph of Christ over sin and death.  Its official title is ‘Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe’.


We see this theme expressed in our second reading today, when St Paul visualizes Jesus Christ handing over the kingdom to God the Father at the end of time.  However, this ideal kingdom is not something simply to be piously hoped for as a future gift, but is something to be worked for by Christians in the present time.  The full extent of the kingdom is indeed to be hoped for, but somehow it is also in our midst – in the process of ‘becoming’.


The first reading from the prophet Ezekiel shows how God’s kingship is unlike that of Judah’s rulers who misused their kingship to the detriment of God’s people.  God will be a true shepherd to his people.  And, in the Psalms and in the Prophets, we see this longing for God’s Kingship to be exercised through a true king of the stature of King David.


This longing is fulfilled in the incarnation.  Jesus embodies the new kingship, which is contrasted with the reign of Caesar Augustus: the power of a divine infant against earthly power.  The crucified one on whose cross Pilate affixes the notice, ‘Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews’.


Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus demonstrated his kingship, gathering the apostles as representatives of the 12 tribes of Israel, and going out to the margins of society:  to Zaacheus, to the woman at the well, eating with saints and sinners, healing and forgiving, drawing in the alienated, and taking on the powerful – the scribes, the Pharisees, and those who ruled for their own benefit.  When we reflect on the ministry of Jesus, we see the contours of the Kingdom which he has come to establish.


Today’s gospel is a parable.  It is often called the ‘Last Judgment’ and is famously portrayed by Michelangelo in a fresco behind the altar in the Sistine chapel. In fact, however, there is no judgment.  The judgment has already been made – determined by the way in which those who now stand before the Shepherd King have responded, or failed to respond, with mercy and hospitality, to those in need during their lives.  What we see is not the judgment but the sentencing, and the message is clear:  what we do now is a judgment that will be passed at the not-yet time of Christ’s final coming.  This scene can be somewhat frightening, since who among us can say that we have done all we could to carry out the works of mercy?

However, we can also see this as an invitation to contribute – to do our part in fashioning the Kingdom which Christ is bringing about.  It is by daily deeds of loving service to our brothers and sisters that the world can be transformed and made ready to be handed back to God.  This is expressed so well in the a passage from Gaudium et Spes, No.39 from the Second Vatican Council:


“For after we have obeyed the Lord, and in his Spirit have nurtured on earth the values of human dignity, community, and freedom, and indeed all the good fruits of our nature and enterprise, we will find them again, but freed of stain, burnished, and transfigured. This will be so when Christ hands back to his Father a kingdom eternal and universal: ”a kingdom of  truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace”. On this earth, that kingdom is already present in mystery. When the Lord returns, it will be brought to full flower.”


The picture of the Judgment in the Gospel is not meant to fill us with fear and trembling.  No, it is a challenge, and not about the future but about today.


Today’s gospel shows how we are to promote the fuller coming of God’s kingdom in our world.  It comes whenever justice is done for the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, and the oppressed.  We see in this parable that people are condemned not for doing actions which were morally wrong, but for not doing anything at all.  The actions are done (or not done) not just FOR Jesus but TO Jesus.  In other words, Jesus wants us to grasp the fact that he is truly present in every person we meet.  To recognize Jesus Christ as our Shepherd-King involves being carers or shepherds in some way ourselves; for the work of the Kingdom goes on until he comes again.

The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.